Blogs: The Skeptics

3 Wars Trump Should End Right Now

Is the Trump Administration Sabotaging the Planned Summit with Kim Jong Un?

Trump Should Be Wary of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince

The Skeptics

Saudi Arabia’s hardline policy on Qatar, yet another MbS creation, has done very little if anything to force Doha to reorient its foreign policy towards Riyadh’s orbit. The reasons for Saudi Arabia’s naval and air blockade on its gas-rich Gulf neighbor—support for the Muslim Brotherhood, interference in the internal affairs of the Gulf monarchies through the the Al Jazeera network, and constructive relations with Iran—have not only stirred apprehension in the normally unified Gulf Cooperation Council bloc, but they have also amounted to a geopolitical win for the Iranians. Rather than frightening Qatar into submission, the pressure has buttressed Qatari support for the ruling family and helped convince Doha that an independent, “Qatar First” foreign policy is exactly the right course of action. Trade and diplomatic relations between Doha and Tehran have gone up, not down, since Riyadh organized the Gulf embargo.

Then, of course, there was the Hariri affair, when Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was called to Saudi Arabia and browbeaten into resigning for being too soft on Hezbollah. The prime minister’s visit to the kingdom looked to many people in the region and the West like a forced rendition. Hariri would return to Lebanon as a martyr. He optics were terrible for the kingdom and even more heinous for MbS personally.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed has monopolized power, a growing number of lawmakers and scholars in Washington are viewing Saudi Arabia as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

What does all of this mean for President Trump, who seems to like the young prince and values all of the cash that the al-Saud’s have thrown to U.S. defense contractors? Two words: be wary. For while Saudi Arabia is a partner in the Middle East and has been since the end of World War II, U.S. and Saudi interests are not totally aligned. Riyadh under Mohammed bin Salman’s thumb is far more assertive, daring, and susceptible to making mistakes and implementing poor judgment. Where Washington’s interests with Saudi Arabia align, like bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and making progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace, the White House can and should engage. But when Saudi policy jeopardizes regional stability, foments schisms within the Gulf Cooperation Council, or exacerbates famine and death in a neighboring country, the United States cannot let itself be dragged into becoming an enabler.

Sometimes, the best thing a friend can do is tell another friend, “sorry, but you’re on your own.”

Daniel R. DePetris is a world affairs columnist for Reuters, a frequent contributor to the American Conservative and the National Interest, and a foreign-policy analyst based in New York, NY.

Image: Flickr

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The West Should Avoid Starting a New Cold War with Russia

The Skeptics

Saudi Arabia’s hardline policy on Qatar, yet another MbS creation, has done very little if anything to force Doha to reorient its foreign policy towards Riyadh’s orbit. The reasons for Saudi Arabia’s naval and air blockade on its gas-rich Gulf neighbor—support for the Muslim Brotherhood, interference in the internal affairs of the Gulf monarchies through the the Al Jazeera network, and constructive relations with Iran—have not only stirred apprehension in the normally unified Gulf Cooperation Council bloc, but they have also amounted to a geopolitical win for the Iranians. Rather than frightening Qatar into submission, the pressure has buttressed Qatari support for the ruling family and helped convince Doha that an independent, “Qatar First” foreign policy is exactly the right course of action. Trade and diplomatic relations between Doha and Tehran have gone up, not down, since Riyadh organized the Gulf embargo.

Then, of course, there was the Hariri affair, when Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was called to Saudi Arabia and browbeaten into resigning for being too soft on Hezbollah. The prime minister’s visit to the kingdom looked to many people in the region and the West like a forced rendition. Hariri would return to Lebanon as a martyr. He optics were terrible for the kingdom and even more heinous for MbS personally.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed has monopolized power, a growing number of lawmakers and scholars in Washington are viewing Saudi Arabia as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

What does all of this mean for President Trump, who seems to like the young prince and values all of the cash that the al-Saud’s have thrown to U.S. defense contractors? Two words: be wary. For while Saudi Arabia is a partner in the Middle East and has been since the end of World War II, U.S. and Saudi interests are not totally aligned. Riyadh under Mohammed bin Salman’s thumb is far more assertive, daring, and susceptible to making mistakes and implementing poor judgment. Where Washington’s interests with Saudi Arabia align, like bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and making progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace, the White House can and should engage. But when Saudi policy jeopardizes regional stability, foments schisms within the Gulf Cooperation Council, or exacerbates famine and death in a neighboring country, the United States cannot let itself be dragged into becoming an enabler.

Sometimes, the best thing a friend can do is tell another friend, “sorry, but you’re on your own.”

Daniel R. DePetris is a world affairs columnist for Reuters, a frequent contributor to the American Conservative and the National Interest, and a foreign-policy analyst based in New York, NY.

Image: Flickr

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Pages

Goodbye Trumpian Promises; Hello Beltway Swamp

The Skeptics

Saudi Arabia’s hardline policy on Qatar, yet another MbS creation, has done very little if anything to force Doha to reorient its foreign policy towards Riyadh’s orbit. The reasons for Saudi Arabia’s naval and air blockade on its gas-rich Gulf neighbor—support for the Muslim Brotherhood, interference in the internal affairs of the Gulf monarchies through the the Al Jazeera network, and constructive relations with Iran—have not only stirred apprehension in the normally unified Gulf Cooperation Council bloc, but they have also amounted to a geopolitical win for the Iranians. Rather than frightening Qatar into submission, the pressure has buttressed Qatari support for the ruling family and helped convince Doha that an independent, “Qatar First” foreign policy is exactly the right course of action. Trade and diplomatic relations between Doha and Tehran have gone up, not down, since Riyadh organized the Gulf embargo.

Then, of course, there was the Hariri affair, when Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was called to Saudi Arabia and browbeaten into resigning for being too soft on Hezbollah. The prime minister’s visit to the kingdom looked to many people in the region and the West like a forced rendition. Hariri would return to Lebanon as a martyr. He optics were terrible for the kingdom and even more heinous for MbS personally.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed has monopolized power, a growing number of lawmakers and scholars in Washington are viewing Saudi Arabia as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

What does all of this mean for President Trump, who seems to like the young prince and values all of the cash that the al-Saud’s have thrown to U.S. defense contractors? Two words: be wary. For while Saudi Arabia is a partner in the Middle East and has been since the end of World War II, U.S. and Saudi interests are not totally aligned. Riyadh under Mohammed bin Salman’s thumb is far more assertive, daring, and susceptible to making mistakes and implementing poor judgment. Where Washington’s interests with Saudi Arabia align, like bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and making progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace, the White House can and should engage. But when Saudi policy jeopardizes regional stability, foments schisms within the Gulf Cooperation Council, or exacerbates famine and death in a neighboring country, the United States cannot let itself be dragged into becoming an enabler.

Sometimes, the best thing a friend can do is tell another friend, “sorry, but you’re on your own.”

Daniel R. DePetris is a world affairs columnist for Reuters, a frequent contributor to the American Conservative and the National Interest, and a foreign-policy analyst based in New York, NY.

Image: Flickr

Recommended: 

Why North Korea's Air Force is Total Junk 

Why Doesn't America Kill Kim Jong Un? 

The F-22 Is Getting a New Job: Sniper

Pages

Pages